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BY CHELYEN DAVIS
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
RICHMOND--State lawmakers reached the halfway point of the 2013 session Tuesday, spending hours passing--and sometimes failing to pass--bills on the House and Senate floor.
Both houses had a midnight Tuesday deadline to deal with most legislation--some, like budget bills, are exempt--so those bills can go to the other house.
In addition to voting on the governor's transportation bill, lawmakers passed bills requiring photo ID at polls, banning texting while driving, putting a moratorium on unmanned aerial drones, barring tolling on existing interstates, and reforming some aspects of Virginia's school system.
The Senate has passed a bill that would bar the governor from tolling any existing interstates without General Assembly approval.
Sen. Don McEachin's bill is one of several that were filed in this session, prompted by citizen anger after Gov. Bob McDonnell announced he was working to put a toll on I-95 near the North Carolina line.
McEachin, D-Henrico, said his bill wouldn't affect existing toll agreements, like those on the HOT lanes in Northern Virginia.
The House's version of McDonnell's transportation plan also contains an amendment barring the use of tolls on I-95, and McDonnell's administration has said that if the legislature passes his transportation bill he will back off his tolling plans.
Sen. Jeff McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, opposed McEachin's bill, saying it was micro-management of the state transportation agencies.
"We have a process in place," he said. "We struggle in this body with taxes. This is a tool from time to time we may have to use."
The Senate approved the bill on a 30-10 vote.
LIMITS ON FOX PENNING
The Senate also passed a bill that would limit the practice of "fox penning."
The practice occurs when owners of private, fenced pens--sometimes many acres large--let hunters use them to train their dogs to hunt foxes. They do so by releasing foxes into the pens and sending in dogs to hunt them.
Sen. Dave Marsden's bill originally put a moratorium on new pens and gradually would have closed down existing ones.
It was amended in committee by Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford. Now it bars fox-penning competitions and restricts the number of dogs allowed into a pen at one time.